Oct/Nov 2022  •   Poetry

She and I

by Samantha Schnell

Organic mixed media artwork by Kay Sexton

Organic mixed media artwork by Kay Sexton

She and I

It was my restlessness that caught her eye.
The others seemed to sink in place,
hanging onto life out of mere habit,
but I flipped, darted, wriggled and whirled.

My redness was so rich, so deep,
like a drip of warm blood.
Her own colors were not as striking as mine:
gray t-shirts, day after day, and dull

hair the same shade of brown as
the dried worms she fed me.
Soon I met you. You were not
happy to see me. But after she

left for dinner, you sat and watched me
go about my business for two straight hours.
I brushed my tail against the soft green
moss balls. I swam too close to the filter,

letting the current have its way with me.
I flared my fins menacingly at that other
red fish, in case he was an enemy,
and not just my own reflection in the glass.

She and I were alike in our restlessness.
Her long fingers trembled to the rhythm of
my harried heartbeat. Her eyeballs,
like my body, pinballed around the walls.

One day she saw me blowing dozens of sticky
bubbles to build a nest for my young.
No young, of course, were ever coming,
but animal instinct is hard to ignore.

We worried about each other, she and I.
She bit her cuticles until they bled, and I bit
my satiny tail until it hung, shredded
and holey, like a wind-worn pirate flag.

I heard her tell you that she had nightmares
about me dying. I died so many times
in her dreams. In one, my water got hotter
and hotter until I became poached,

my poppy-red scales turning a bloated pink.
In another, I exploded into a thousand
red flakes, like a fleshy firecracker.
In yet another, she forgot to dechlorinate

my water, and my eyes bulged noiselessly as
poison screamed through my small veins
in search of my scared heart.
One night, while she was dreaming of me,

I really did die. I kept my body intact
so that she could lay it gently in the trashcan
and come back into the apartment, her red-
rimmed eyes searching for yours.